Providing resources, guidance, and assistance to first responders with wellness, mental health, and addiction.
First Responder Assistance
We are a fairly small organization, but we are looking to grow and increase our reach to those in need. Our financial footprint is small, but the mission of what we do is what we find most important. I personally fund many of the things we need to operate, so anything above that is a plus which moves to our care fund. So many people have been lost and many could have been saved if the road to care was easier to navigate and readily available. In our first year of operation, we took care of 19 first responders and veterans who otherwise would likely not have gotten help - or effective help. This is a difficult subject to navigate, but we are committed to helping as many as we can.
I've had a career in public service my entire life. I started as a firefighter and eventually made my way in to EMS as a Paramedic which I've been doing for the past 11 years with a total of 16 years in the public service sector. In all my years of training, it was rarely ever mentioned that this job could lead to challenges that I would be unable to handle myself. As public servants we are asked to surrender our humanity in order to do our jobs, but that often comes at a price. We see and handle the worst things that humanity has to offer and no matter how tough you may be, it will eventually catch up with you, sometimes in a way you might not realize.
I ended up getting mixed up in alcohol, post traumatic stress, depression, and everything nearly came to an end with suicide - twice. Thankfully I survived despite the odds being against me, but my survival lead me to taking on a cause that is often ignored or marginalized. After my first suicide attempt I attended various forms of treatment. As I went through things, I found that what I was doing was not effective despite being lead to believe it was the only way. Everyone wanted to take care of the drinking, but was far less interested in the internal problems. Things like nightmares, social anxiety, avoidance, depressed moods, sleep problems, feeling worthless, and a whole host of other things. Drinking constantly is visible, feeling terrible isn't always as obvious. I became lost and returned to the habitual drinking ultimately resulting in my second attempt. I woke up in the ICU on a ventilator with no idea what had happened and putting the pieces of my life back together was hard and painful. I had problems finding effective providers, engaging programs, and the people who loved me had trouble providing the proper support that is so needed while going through this process. After my second episode, I decided to fight for effective treatment. That may seem odd, but getting what is right for you in these situations was much harder than I had imagined. It was not easy, but I found my way with much credit due to my wife who I love eternally. I went to a program specifically for first responders and veterans - and it was there that I was finally able to get the care I needed and I was able to get my life back. I still feel that if I had been able to do that the first time, I could have spared myself and loved ones much heartache and pain. Why was this so difficult?
Through all of this, I spent some time and identified the gaps in the system that I fell through. Public servants are an entirely different type of person than the rest of the population. We have our own ways of dealing with stress, our brand of humor, and interact in a completely different way. One of the things I identified is that there was no streamlined way to get proper support and services. There was no way to easily find an effective provider, after-care or routine care was difficult to find. Good providers were also difficult to find. I see myself as a fairly intelligent person, so if I fell through the system, how many others could?
I started this organization to address these gaps and break the links of suicide and substance abuse within our communities. I started with nothing more than an idea and with the help of friends we evolved into an important network that people know can be relied on. We established a network of professional relationships with providers and institutions who have the specialty to manage the specific needs of people like me. Now when a first responder or veteran needs help, they (or anyone) can reach out to us and our network takes care of them. In less than 24 hours in most cases, we have someone in care. It can be as simple as a therapist or all the way to inpatient stays. We have a network of peers from all spectrums and who have all been through tough times and are willing to provide guidance that was missing for so long. We support the families and loved ones in any way we can because the recovery process involves everyone. We continue contact with them and assist them along so they too can get their lives back. We have also included providers in sleep medicine and Chiropractic care to encourage wellness and help prevent more serious problems as time goes on. Proper sleep is a major problem for us and can make issues worse. Neck and back pain from all the heavy lifting and moving can also take a toll physically and eventually effects mood and outlook because of pain and problems with mobility. These things can be addressed by a good provider and there is no point in suffering anymore. Unfortunately, many of our organizations or regulators have little to no interest in dealing with these problems (with some exceptions) so we will.
We include veterans in our mission because many of them end up in public service but still choose to identify as soldiers. Our veterans also seem to be forgotten more often than not and don't always have a place to turn to. A lot of the treatment for both groups is the same as well - we seem to get each other and understand the traumas, stressors, and challenges with what we do. We have specific resources for our veterans as well.
As we have evolved, we established a program where we provide financial assistance to those in need during their wellness process. Finances are always a problem and normally the main deterrent for those who need help. If we can assist with that, and as soon as possible, it is more likely the outcome will be successful. The fund is currently depleted after the assistance provided to two people over the last month. These two were situations were their finances and lack of insurance coverage left them unable to get help.
We are out there so you know that you are not alone. Someone else has been there too - there is a way out without resorting to substance abuse and suicide. It may not be openly talked about in our industries, but it is is problem that needs to be addressed.
Any support you can provide to us is put to use and is greatly appreciated. We help all first responders and veterans no matter their financial situation and advocate for them in any way we can.
Our aim is to have a happy and healthy first responder and veteran community. We need this for our families and our society - there is help!